Major League Baseball standout Ryan Klesko, heavyweight boxing champion Duane Bobick and All-American lineman Walt Patulski have been elected into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame for 2014. Additionally, U.S. Women’s Open bowling champion Liz Johnson has been chosen to receive this year’s Excellence in Sports Award.
Ryan Klesko played 16 Major League Baseball seasons (1992-2007) with Atlanta, San Diego and San Francisco, belting 278 home runs, 987 RBI, and 1,564 hits during his major league career. He was an integral part of the Braves World Series Championship team of 1985, as well as two other Braves World Series teams. Named to the 2001 All-Star team in San Diego, Klesko batted .300 or better in four seasons and hit 21 or more home runs in eight seasons. He finished with an impressive .279 career batting average.
Duane Bobick started boxing at age 16 in Golden Gloves, and became one of the best amateur boxers in the United States. He was a three-time All-Navy champion and two-time All-Service champion. Standing 6’3” and weighing 215 pounds, he won the United States AAU Heavyweight Championship in 1971 and also won the gold medal at the 1971 Pan American Games. As an amateur, he compiled a record of 93-16 with 61 KO’s, beating Larry Holmes to be named to the ’72 US Olympic team for the summer games in Munich. After turning pro, Bobick won his first 19 fights by knockout, gaining a top-10 ranking. He was 38-0 before he lost his first fight, a heavyweight title elimination bout in 1977. He retired in 1979 at age 28 with a professional record of 48-4 with 41 KO’s.
Walt Patulski, a three-year starter at The University of Notre Dame, was generally considered the best collegiate lineman in the country from 1969-71. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end was a unanimous All-American in 1971, winning both the UPI Lineman of the Year award, and the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation’s outstanding lineman. He finished ninth in Heisman Trophy voting that same year, and was selected for the College All-Star and Hula Bowl games. The Buffalo Bills made Patulski the first overall pick of the 1972 NFL Draft, an honor not since bestowed upon any Notre Dame player. His NFL career was cut short in 1977 due to a knee injury.
Bowler Liz Johnson earns this year’s NPASHF Excellence in Sports Award, by virtue of her 2013 U.S. Women’s Open Championship, the pinnacle of success in women’s bowling. With her 257-195 victory over defending champion Kelli Kulick, Johnson joins Kulick and only two other women to have ever won the event three times. Following her victory, Johnson added “icing on the cake” by defeating U.S. Men’s Open champion Wes Malott in a special “Battle of the Sexes” one game roll-off. Johnson becomes the second individual ever to be awarded the NPASHF Excellence in Sports Award, succeeding last year’s inaugural award winner, 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski.
The awards will be presented to the recipients at the 42nd Anniversary Induction Banquet on Thursday, June 19, 2014, at the American Polish-Cultural Center in Troy, Michigan, with Fox 2 Sports anchor Jennifer Hammond serving as Master of Ceremonies. Tickets for the banquet, which begins at 6 p.m., are $100 and can be ordered by calling (313) 407-3300. Information on the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame is available at www.polishsportshof.com.